Skip to content

There comes a time in a young hook's life when it has a chance to become something greater.

To transform into a beautiful creature of greater purpose, to transmogrify...

Eh. Alright. I got a little carried away there. After all, we are talking about Carp Swap 2013 here. Transmogrify? Oh yeah, I'd catch hell for that one.

ANYway, back to the hook - or rather, the water, where it all starts. "Where does a fly begin?", you might ask. Well I'll tell you. It starts with a problem.

...continue reading "Rojo Mojo – Carp Swap 2013"

4

I haven't fished in a month or so now, which honestly is a bit hard on my soul. The upside is that I have been able to spend a lot of time with family and friends on a piece of property that my family owns out in the hill country of Texas. It's a beautiful, harsh place. Characterized by limestone, deer and little rain, the Hill Country is romanticized by many and lived in by few. I love the time that I get to spend out there. Away from the hustle and bustle of the urban areas, I get to unwind. I get to see things that most others don't get to see... which was the case one foggy morning a couple weeks ago. I was out on a 4wheeler when the fog bank hit, and it was a good thing I knew where I was going because visibility was ~20 feet for a little while. Then, just as suddenly, it cleared and left behind thousands of sparkling jewels in its wake. Spider webs, having caught the moisture from the air, strung out the beads of dew to catch the sunlight. Some were situated such that they formed prisms, creating rainbows in the heart of the webs. I just had to share such a beautiful phenomenon with you, and so here it is. Some repeat, some are edits, but each picture is unique and I like the different aspects shown here. Hopefully, so do you.

 

 

 

 

Watching it approach...

The rain STUNG.

Out on the unprotected jetty, the wind-driven downpour was merciless.

Dropping straight out of the ominous squall that spawned them, millions of raindrops hurtled towards the green, white-capping waves of the Brownsville ship channel. The wind whipping the water into a froth caught the dripping drops and accelerated them. Laughing maniacally, the raindrops aimed directly for the most improbable target they could find – the inside of my left ear.

A shrimp boat tows another one in during the developing squall.

Ever been given a wet willy by a storm? It’s not fun.

I quickly learned to hold up my left hand over that side of my face to cover my ear and eye. I had already slid my Buff off my face down onto my neck – when soaking wet they can suffocate you, and I had no interest in being water-boarded by a storm.

As we made our perilous way down the rock, I couldn't help but think that the New England jetty guys would be laughing at us - they probably fish in those conditions all the time. Stepping across a crevasse between granite blocks, my peripherals caught motion. Glancing over as I kept walking, I saw a blurred, upturned face with water streaming down it. A fellow jetty-goer, trying to shelter from the storm. The only problem was that there was no shelter to be had. The waves were slamming over the jetty by this point, giving us alternate soakings in salt and fresh water.

The short walk down the jetty had turned into hours, miles of jagged slick rocks and pounding surf. It was easy to compare to a huge, storm-born beast; slavering granite jaws, buffeting gusts of cold, stinging breath. Any misstep meant broken gear and blood, at the least.

The Long Walk

The rocks are always hungry.

 

Smack in the Storm

 

Look at that smile.

 

 

A couple boats revved up and started chasing the ephemeral school, spooking the fish time and time again and only catching one of the small tuna. We watch, and grumble, and wait for our turn.

Capturing some filmage.

 

Suddenly, Don comes tight. I see him struggle with a knot in his fly line for a moment before it is ripped from his fingers, popping a snake guide and launching the top half of his rod out into the green swirling waters. I move quickly across the rocks to assist. Any second the hard-running tuna could pop a knot or graze a rock, and bye bye rod tip...

Don 'Half-rod' Alcala works a bonito

A little bit of chaos ensues - the knot is removed, the fish surfaces by the rocks, and the other half of the rod is safely retrieved. Whew. We were all a bit worried there.

 

Que Bonito!

 

After that the fishing settled down and the sun climbed up in the sky. A few small jacks and large ladyfish rounded out the morning, but no tarpon rolled and the bonito didn't deign to return close enough to the rocks to catch. So it goes. We walked back down the rocks vowing that it would be different when we had a boat to get out there and chase them... as generations of anglers have done before us. Despite the lukewarm fishing, it was great to get out there with my friends and enjoy a beautiful morning.

 

And on to the next spot.

 

Keeping an eye out as the rollers come in.

2

It was hot.

The line burned through my fingers as the thing I had hooked down in the turbid water heaved and surged. I started taking steps back up to the water’s edge to help clear line faster as my eyes darted down to my line, searching for heart-breaking tangles that might catch on a guide and ruin this adventure before it hardly began.

The last of the slack whipped up off the water and came taut with an audible ‘Ting!’, slapping against the arbor of my reel. I could hear my fishing buddy reeling furiously from down the bank as he prepared to come assist and spectate.

My 8wt throbbed with powerful headshakes; I dropped my rodtip to the downstream side to try and lend some side pressure and turn the force of nature I had latched on to. I was still unsure at this point if I had them or if they had me…

My buddy arrived, mud spattered and a little breathless. I grinned at him and he gave me a slap on the back – we knew this was as close as we had gotten to the Goal. After the initial run the creature in the depths had settled down to a steady, inexorable pull. I couldn’t turn it, couldn’t control it, so I applied pressure and settled back to wait. I tried not to think about all the rocks and trees and other debris that the river had swallowed and that might be waiting to part my twenty pound leader.

When you're fighting a big fish there is that niggling worry that grows in the back for your mind - you must master it. The very fear that you might lose the fish can cause it to happen. Hurried netting attempts, horsing the fish, grabbing too quickly for a leader, bringing in a green fish... all can spell disaster for that fish of a lifetime. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Now, I'm not saying baby the fish either. Apply pressure when applicable, and whip that fish's ass with good fighting technique. You will dispel the whispers of doubt in the back of your mind if you know you're fighting the fish as best you can. This is good for your mental state and leaves the fish in better condition to swim away after a picture or two.

In the middle of the river, the fish surged to the surface.

I got a glimpse of it for the first time as it made a huge swirl, pushing back towards the bottom. My rod was bent in a smooth parabolic curve as I grudgingly gave a few feet of line, and then stopped the fish again. Ah, yes - we've got 'er now. Applying brutal side pressure and reeling in a few inches at a time, I worked the fish up from the bottom and ever closer to my feet.

My fishing partner slipped on a glove and got out a camera. After a couple more short runs for the depths, the fish was beached in all her glory.

Gloriously Beastly

 

We quickly applied a tape and got a measurement -

Taped In
Taped Out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And revived her, watching her swim away powerfully. Goal Accomplished.

Release... The Kraken!

 

'Til Next Time...

 

And on to the next spot...

A quick story through pictures of my first trip to try my luck below Denison Dam at Texoma.

No big ones, but I ended the day with 12 young striper, 1 nice white bass, and one brave greenie. Not too bad. Looking forward to going back and tangling with a bigger fish; perhaps night fishing is the ticket... hmmm...

1

I recently had the great opportunity to fly across a whole lot of water to a small speck of rock in the middle of the pacific and though I only really had time to fish seriously for one day, I managed to connect! A big tip of the hat goes out to Clay over at Nervous Waters Fly Fishing for helping me out with a spot or two where I might run into a bonefish on a do it myself basis.

The habitat here is diverse - deep channels and flats, waist deep sandy pockets and mixed coral, all the way up to super skinny water that goes dry with a low tide and is nearly always subject to waves washing across it. I hit the water an hour before tide change, and saw a feeding pair almost right off the bat. Sneaking up on these fish while crunching across treacherous coral is no walk in the park. These guys got uneasy and cruised away to who knows where when I was trying to set up for the roughly 80' shot quartering into the wind. I had the hardest time seeing these fish if they weren't tailing - you old hands at the bonefish game are nodding and smiling right now, but for this redfish hunter they were grey ghosts indeed!

After the initial jolt of adrenaline from spotting my quarry, I was completely psyched up and eager to find some more. I slowed down my wading pace and went along as stealthily as I could. After another hundred yards or so I was rewarded with a large tail popping up at 40 feet, facing away - if you've never seen a bone tailing before it's like seeing a spike suddenly thrust from the water, their caudal fin is deeply forked and very pointed. I strained my eyes behind my polarized lenses but even in 5 inches of super clean water I just could Not see the fish. The best I had was a slightly darker green-blue smear attached to the tail. Seizing my chance, I quickly calculated the wind and laid a cast aimed at placing my fly a foot ahead and to the left of the fish. The loop straightened and dropped, and the tail went down... I waited, intense, and twitched the mantis shrimp imitation...

Twenty feet further on, the bone popped his tail up again to mock me. I quickly learned to appreciate how fast the fish were moving across the flat; I never had time to take more than two shots at any fish that I saw, and if I was further than a long cast from a fish that I saw tailing it was pretty much pointless to try and wade to the tail because they would be long gone by the time I got there over the coral.

The tide started to rise, prompting bigger fish to push up into the skinny areas and I started to see some very large. At least this Texas boy knows how find some tail! Walking slowly with the wind, into the tidal flow, I caught the flicker of a fin above the surface and snapped my attention to that spot. A bonefish was worming his way towards me into the wind with his back emerging up out of the water as I watched. I dropped to my knees, ignoring the coral biting into my kneecaps as I readied myself for the shot. He stopped and tailed on something at around 65 feet, and I almost cast to him but something stopped me; I decided to wait a bit more. My heart thudding in my chest, I held my leader as my fly swung loose in the breeze. I watched the fish's gleaming, shark-like profile get closer and closer.

At what I guessed as 45', the bone stopped with his head behind a knob of coral. I tossed the fly aside and rolled my line up off the water, back and then flicking out, landing the fly a foot to the fish's left, out of sight behind the outcrop. Sliding forward, the bone turned towards me slightly and I could see his head clearly, just under the surface. I made a 3 inch strip; the fish immediately turned on the movement. I made two tiny twitches; he simply swam over and ate it. Thankfully my hands knew what to do, because my brain was melting down. No way he just ate that! No WAY! As klaxons were screaming in my brain, my hands smoothly and swiftly executed a strip strike, lifting the rod quickly to keep tension and keep the leader above coral. In a giddy fog, I watched the fish as he cleared the remaining line and hit the reel. Lurching to my feet, I just held the rod as my reel arbor started to groan backwards, slowly growing in speed and pitch as the fish figured out he was hooked, and then the reel was screaming. I was grinning like a fool and watching him torpedo across the flat, slinging water and chunks of seaweed everywhere. I expected the fight to be over any second - any errant bit of coral could cut me off. To my surprise the fish tired out around 80 yards of backing into the run... or at least I thought he tired. Whipping around, he began swimming nearly directly back to me. My eyes were wide and my mouth started uttering all the proper profanity due the situation. Reeling furiously and backing up as quickly as possible, I was stumbling over coral and almost ended up on my back more than once.

I finally caught up to the fish and got tight again - no sooner had I a good connection than he burned off again, but this run was much shorter than the first and I began to dare to hope that I would land him. Gingerly controlling the bonefish, turning his head every time he tried to gain momentum, I worked him to my hand. I let out a little whoop of victory, and then yanked my head up to the unfamiliar sound of applause. Seems on Hawaii everyone either fishes or appreciates fishing as an art - my screaming drag and splashing around had attracted a small crowd of locals. Realizing I had to get rid of the fish before they figured out how good it was and got any closer, I snapped a couple hurried pics with my camera phone and gave him one more lingering look as I popped the hook from the corner of his mouth. Moving him once forward and back, I released his tail as he surged away from me. Turning back to the crowd, I waved and smiled. They were very disappointed that I released it and I explained to them that the fish had been small and that I would leave it for them to catch later. They brightened a bit at that idea, and wandered off without asking me what I had caught. Turning back to the flat, I closed my eyes for a moment and basked in the euphoria a bit more before going back on full alert and covering more water. That would be the only shot I had for the rest of the trip, but I didn't care much. I had already done what I came to do.

6

Every once in a while a fisherman finds himself invited along on an adventure of grand proportion with a bunch of complete strangers. Such was the situation a while back when I got a call from Brandon. When I heard Chris, Mike and Jen were all going to be there, I was excited for the chance to make new fly flinging friends and to show off my home waters a bit.

Everyone with their own favorite little water that they like to occasionally show to people knows that the guests always seem to arrive during crappy conditions. The fishing was So bad in fact that the ubiquitous 'shoulda been here yesterday' curse wasn't in effect this time; the fishing had been pretty terrible for a week or so already prior to the group flying in from their various places around the country. Brandon and I kept in touch and from time to time I would send him another depressing fishing report - I am pretty sure he dreaded my name on his caller ID after a while.

Long story short? We by-golly Did find fish for everyone, after some work. And frustration. And running from a squall. And more frustration.

Don't believe me? Well, the proof is in the pictures, and I didn't take a single one*... but I know a few people that did!

Hello, Texas - Eat More Brook Trout

The Cabin – Eat More Brook Trout

Beat the Drum – Eat More Brook Trout

Sandblasted ... - Eat More Brook Trout

We Have Your Redfish – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Redfish Palace – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Laguna Sunrise – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Bohemia, TX – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

On Being Ready – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Fishing with the Devil - Mike’s Gone Fishin’

On the board – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Laguna Sunset – Mike’s Gone Fishin’

Texas Transition - Mike's Gone Fishin'

 Thank you guys for the Great times!

Cracka-dawn

‘Why do I even bother to look up wind predictions?’ I grumbled to myself as I unloaded my kayak in the grey-light of early morning.

‘6mph, my butt.’  But I didn’t call it quits. After all, I was already there, and I had confidence in my ability to put my fly where I wanted it even in the 20mph wind that was already starting to kick up. I switched reels to put on a heavier line, rigged up a heavier leader than the normal 12lb tippet I usually throw in the skinny water flats, and headed off with the sunrise coming up over my shoulder.

Fly fishing the Texas coast is something that many people prepare for months in advance – if you book a guided trip down here, most fly guides will recommend lots of practice casting into wind and double hauling. Fly fishing in freshwater will rarely call for the tricks and techniques we employ down here to beat the wind, and many a talented freshwater fly slinger has found themselves humbled when they come visit us.

Those of us that already live here already familiar with the wind, so we should have a huge advantage… but a lot of guys simply choose to stay off the water instead. If the strategy of waiting until the wind lays works for you, more power to you! However, if you’re my kind of crazy hear the siren’s call of tailing reds and rolling tarpon like I do, there are some tricks that can you can employ to make blustery day fly fishing a little easier.

One of the keys that I have found is learning to use the wind to your advantage. By positioning yourself so that the fish are directly downwind or quartering downwind, you can take accurate shots much more easily than trying to fight the wind directly. With a little practice, you might be surprised just how far you can cast by learning to ‘sail’ your line with the wind.

Sometimes you have to change up the angle of a cast in heavy wind.

By using heavy enough rods and ‘up-lining’ a weight heavier than the rod weight calls for, (such as a 9 weight line on an 8 weight rod), an angler has the ability to adjust his tackle to suit the conditions if he or she expects the day to be blustery. On the flats, I would recommend a floating line for most conditions, but on windy days I’m not afraid to break out an intermediate line to help me carve a path for my fly to get in front of the fish. As for leader selection, I will generally use a 6-7ft 20lb leader tapered to a 15lb tippet on breezy days. The purpose is twofold; the short, stout leader helps roll your fly over in blustery conditions, and stands up better to the inevitable wind knots. I prefer not to remember all the times I’ve set the hook on good fish only to immediately break off at a knot in my leader.

In a pinch, if you don’t have a heavier line available to you, I have successfully used heavy clousers to help me get my backcast going into the wind. While I was limited to fishing channels and edges using this technique, it was better than sitting at home and not catching anything.

The point I’m trying to make here is that we live near some of the prettiest, fly-fisher friendly water anywhere around. If you aren’t comfortable casting when the wind is blowing, you don’t have to just give up – there are some great instructional DVDs out there, as well as qualified local casting instructors such as myself or Dave Hayward over at the Orvis shop in Rockport that can help you.

I got back to the truck that day with 3 keeper trout to 18” and a nice puppy drum on the stringer – not bad for a day that kept a lot of guys off the water. Don’t let a little breeze scare you – put in some practice and take that fly stick with you to the water even on windy days. You’ll soon see that with a little practice, fly fishing can be an everyday pursuit if you want it to be.